General Motors will offer its first autonomous EV through its affiliated ride-sharing partner, Lyft, and things are coming together on an accelerated pace.
In January this year, GM announced it invested $500 million in Lyft and it has made Pam Fletcher, its former executive chief engineer for electric vehicles, its new executive chief engineer of autonomous tech.
Without specifying timing, Fletcher told Tech Insider it could happen sooner than some think.
“We have not made that announcement yet, but what I would say is this is all coming much faster than people anticipate, so I’ll say that much. We have been transparent about that,” she said. “We are working on an on-demand ride-sharing network with Lyft, it’s not something we are thinking about, it’s something we are very much readying for consumer use.”
Lyft works a lot like Uber, and GM sees it as a natural fit for it to assert its own products into the growing market of hailing a vehicle from one’s smartphone, or other device.
Fletcher added the 200-plus-mile range Bolt EV, which could go into production by October, and is to be on sale from $37,500 late this year, was designed with autonomous ride sharing in mind.
“There are a number of things that you can piece together,” said Fletcher of indicators that GM is working on autonomous electric ride sharing. “We introduced the car about the same time at CES as when we really started talking about mobility and rideshare. So it’s not by coincidence, and if you look at a lot of aspects of the Bolt EV there are a lot of elements about it that are really crafted around a good ride share application, so that takes it into the future” she said.
“They (EVs) operate very smoothly, they operate very quietly, seamlessly, and so you can create this very positive experience inside the car,” she said. “People they want that, they want to get in the car and for it to feel like a cocoon, so they can take a nap or have a conference call.”
GM’s CEO Mary Bara has previously said more than once that the next five years of the automobile business will see more changes than have the last 50, and Fletcher echoed that in speaking to Tech Insider.
“So what I would say is this car is a big part of a transformation of transportation and mobility,” said Fletcher.
Among things that can be “pieced together,” as Fletcher said of evidence for what GM is up to, is the trail of expenditures and an announcements leading to a ride-sharing GM EV.
Aside from the $500 million spent on Lyft, in March GM announced its acquisition of start-up self-driving car company Cruise Automation to augment its autonomous efforts. In May GM said Cruise was using a Bolt to test its self-driving tech.
The Wall Street Journal also said in May GM and Lyft could before the end of the year begin testing on public streets self-driving EVs.
Speaking to Tech Insider, the company however said currently Lyft’s efforts and Cruise’s Bolt tests are separate programs, but the likelihood is high they will eventually overlap.
Hat tip to Brian Ro.